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IBM, Honda, PG&E Pilot EV-to-Grid Communication

The project aims to demonstrate an electric vehicle's ability to receive and respond to charge instructions based on the states of the power grid and the vehicle's battery. With visibility into charging patterns, energy providers will have the ability to more effectively manage charging during peak hours and create consumer-friendly programs to encourage electric vehicle adoption, the companies said.

The energy requirements for electric vehicles will challenge the current power grid as plug-in vehicle counts continue to grow to an expected 2.9 million worldwide by 2017. Projects like these have the potential to ease the infrastructure and consumer concerns associated with the mass adoption of EVs, by making charging seamless for consumers, while ensuring the electricity source is reliable and the infrastructure is stable.

This demonstration combines grid and vehicle data to create an individualized charging plan for Honda's Fit EV battery electric vehicles (BEV), using IBM's cloud based software platform. By utilizing the existing in-vehicle communications system in the Honda Fit EV, the electric vehicle can interact with utilities and the grid, creating a direct channel for sending and receiving usage information that could improve local grid management.

"This pilot project with IBM and Honda will help us demonstrate that third-party providers have the systems and capabilities to help meet some of the challenges that electric vehicles could place on the power grid as their adoption increases in the coming years," said Saul Zambrano, senior director for consumer products for Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E). "With updated charging patterns for EVs, we have the ability if needed, to shift demand to non-peak times to ensure the reliability of the grid so that we can continue to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy to our customers."

Once plugged into a charge post, the Honda Fit EV initiates a charge request via the vehicles telematics system, an integrated telecommunication application that is often used for navigation. This request is sent to IBM's Electric Vehicle Enablement Platform where vehicle data such as battery state and grid data received from PG&E, is combined to create an optimized charge schedule, which is then communicated back to the vehicle in seconds. Using this aggregated data, the vehicle has the intelligence to charge to the level that is needed while factoring any current grid constraints.

Using real time and simulated data, the system will test and demonstrate the ability to alter, as well as adapt charging patterns based on grid conditions. This smart charging capability will enable energy providers to manage the power used by EVs during peak times by instructing vehicles to delay or adjust charging if required.

Additionally, the IBM EV platform can collate historical EV charging data and create a profile that can be used to forecast the location and duration of EV charge loads. For example, the program can determine how many EVs are plugged in one neighborhood and the time it will take for each to reach a full charge. This level of insight will allow utilities to optimize grid operations and help reduce the chance of outages – a possible concern as the number of EVs increase.

"The growth and success of EV adoption is reliant upon many factors, ranging from vehicle price and performance, to infrastructure readiness, to the consumer experience – a scope that cannot be addressed by one sole industry," said Allan Schurr, Vice President, Strategy and Development of IBM's Global Energy and Utilities Industry. "This project with Honda and PG&E represents a significant step towards building an intelligent infrastructure that integrates capabilities and technologies across three major players."

OnStar and Google are working together to demonstrate similar technology that allows Chevrolet Volt owners to charge their electric cars with more renewable energy when it is available on the grid.

Bart King is a PR consultant and principal of Cleantech Communications.


Bart King is the principal of New Growth Communications, a network of affiliated content producers and strategists serving clients in the emerging green economy. He is also an associate editor for Sustainable Brands. Follow him @bart_kingGoogle+

[Read more about Bart King]


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